Nick Solak on finding himself in the clean-up spot in Rangers lineup
Joey Gallo came through the minor leagues as the heir apparent to Adrian Beltre at third base, and he even took over the position early in 2017 as Beltre opened the season injured.
Gallo is an outfielder now. A pretty good one, too.
The Texas Rangers’ first post-Beltre season opened with Asdrubal Cabrera at third base. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Danny Santana and Nick Solak have helped man the position since Cabrera was designated for assignment Aug. 1.
That’s probably not Plan A for 2020 as the Rangers trudge to the 2019 finish line. Impending free agent Anthony Rendon might be at the top of the Rangers’ wish list, but who knows how much ownership is willing to spend this offseason.
Even if they do pony up, there are no guarantees Rendon takes their offer.
So, Kiner-Falefa, Santana and Solak are going to play third the rest of the way because the Rangers must learn if any of those three, or a combination of them, can viably fill third base in 2020.
“I need to see what it looks like, maybe not for everyday purposes, but just to see if they can handle the position for next year,” manager Chris Woodward said. “If we don’t sign an everyday third baseman, someone is going to have to play there.”
Santana was back at third base Saturday as the Rangers won their third straight game against the Baltimore Orioles, 9-4. It was only his fifth game of the season there but his third on the road trip.
Kiner-Falefa has the most experience there, but his bat doesn’t fit the typically profile of a third baseman.
Solak has only two games there, including Wednesday at New York.
Woodward has been pleased with how all three have handled things, especially considering it’s not their natural position. But they are attacking balls rather than letting the ball play them, and each has the arm strength to make the throw across the diamond.
Woodward is judging them based on the practice they have put in, in addition to what they do in games.
“Danny’s been pretty good,” Woodward said. “He’s so quick. You see how he gets off the ball. I’m going going to take a good look at him and Solak. Kiner will play there as well.”
The Rangers like Rendon, the Houston native who played at Rice. He entered Saturday as the MLB leader in batting average (.338) and was fourth in OPS (1.048). They also see him as solid defensively.
With Globe Life Field on schedule to open next season, the Rangers might want to make a splash in free agency. They could also spend on upgrades elsewhere and wait on first-round pick Josh Jung to take over at third.
Just as there are no guarantees in free agency, there are no guarantees with prospects.
Enter Santana, Solak and Kiner-Falefa.
“We’ve got to keep it open and see what it looks like, and get them some reps,” Woodward said.